The billionaire space race is heating up, and Jeff Bezos aims to be first across the finish line. In July, Bezos plans to blast off on a rocket built by his space exploration company, Blue Origin. This has many people wondering: Who exactly is Jeffrey Preston Bezos? You might be familiar with his work at Amazon: He’s the company’s founder and, as of July 5, its former CEO. Perhaps you think of him as the No. 1 most obscenely rich guy on the planet. If you’re a real intellectual, you might know him best as the owner of the Washington Post. Or maybe you find yourself singing the Bo Burnham song every time a Prime van careens down your block. But there is so much more to the rich tapestry of Jeff Bezos’s mind, and we at Intelligencer are here to tell you all about it.
He has eaten an iguana.
Bezos was snapped taking a nibble of the large herbivorous lizard at the Explorers Club Annual Dinner in 2018. He was in attendance to accept the Buzz Aldrin Space Exploration Award. Speaking of space exploration …
He has a truly terrifying vision of space colonization.
“The solar system could easily support a trillion humans, and if we had a trillion humans, we would have a thousand Einsteins and a thousand Mozarts, and unlimited, for all practical purposes, resources, from solar power and so on. That’s the world that I want my great-grandchildren’s great-grandchildren to live in,” Bezos said during a 2018 interview on why he considers Blue Origin the most important thing he’s done in life. So far, so good, right?
“By the way, I believe that … in that time frame, we will move all heavy industry off of Earth, and Earth will be zoned residential and light industry,” he continued. I can see it already: Jeff Bezos’s descendents pulling a reverse Elysium, with a vast empire of space sweatshops, hidden away from the watchful eyes of pesky earthling regulators.
His spaceships are unbelievably phallic.
Every few years or so, there is a “Jeff Bezos’s rocket looks like a dong” news cycle. After Blue Origin released video of their first flight in 2015, Recode observed that the billionaire had launched a “real-life version of ‘Austin Powers’ penis rocket.”
Earlier this month, the dick-shaped rockets made the news once again, after Bezos announced that on July 20, he would go on an 11-minute Blue Origin flight to space. Bezos hoped to be the first billionaire to leave Earth, but Richard Branson just announced that he’ll beat him, as he’s taking a Virgin Galactic flight on July 11. (Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith suggested Branson isn’t really going into space, telling the New York Times, “We wish him a great and safe flight, but they’re not flying above the Karman line and it’s a very different experience.”). One Twitter user called Bezos’s ship “a giant flaming space dildo,” while Stephen Colbert quipped, “If this was on a CBS show, we’d have to blur it.”
Like many of his celebrity brethren, he’s been caught up in a sexting scandal.
Speaking of dicks, the Amazon founder had sexts he allegedly sent to his girlfriend, Lauren Sanchez, exposed by the National Enquirer in 2019. “I want to smell you, I want to breathe you in. I want to hold you tight.… I want to kiss your lips…. I love you. I am in love with you,” he reportedly wrote. “I love you, alive girl. I will show you with my body, and my lips and my eyes, very soon.” Alive girl, indeed!
In a masterful PR move, Bezos got ahead of the story by publishing a Medium essay that laid out what he described as the publication’s “extortion and blackmail” attempt. It featured alleged correspondence from the Enquirer’s top editor claiming that among the Bezos photos in their possession was a “below the belt selfie — otherwise colloquially known as a ‘d*ck pick.’” However, a recent Bloomberg article reports that this is untrue. Apparently, while Sanchez’s brother leaked her and Bezos’s real private texts to the gossip rag, the “dick pic” he showed them was taken from a pornographic website.
I don’t know what this says about him, but I feel obligated to show it to you.
He loves Lizzo …
… almost as much as he appears to hate bathroom breaks.
Amazon, while a literal trillion-dollar company, is not known for treating its employees very nicely. One of the most well-documented complaints among the people working tirelessly to deliver your packages is that they don’t have enough time to take bathroom breaks, and often resort to peeing in bottles and public urination.
The company has denied this, tweeting: “You don’t really believe the peeing in bottles thing, do you? If that were true nobody would work for us.” But in March, the Intercept reported that while the practice may technically be forbidden, “managers frequently referenced it during meetings and in formal policy documents and emails.” In one of the internal documents leaked to the publication, an area manager complained about repeatedly finding bags of poop in drivers’ vans.
He’s so rich that his superyacht has its own yacht.
Bezos’s $500 million nautical abomination, which costs an additional $60 million a year in maintenance costs, has its own “support yacht,” whatever that means. As the Cut noted earlier this year, the median yearly income for an Amazon worker is around $29,000.
He probably pays less in taxes than you do!
A ProPublica investigation found that the 25 richest Americans usually pay little to no income taxes. In 2007, Bezos paid a whopping zero bucks in federal income taxes, while in 2011, he actually got a $4,000 return from the IRS. This probably isn’t illegal, since the wealthiest Americans routinely use loopholes in the system to avoid paying their fair share in taxes, but it sure feels criminal.
He reportedly believes people are inherently lazy.
The New York Times reported that Bezos thinks people are “inherently lazy.” A former Amazon HR VP told the paper of his ex-boss, “What he would say is that our nature as humans is to expend as little energy as possible to get what we want or need.”
Brad Stone, who has written two books on Bezos, reported that some of the CEO’s employees have speculated that he has no capacity for empathy. “He treats workers as expendable resources without taking into account their contributions,” Stone wrote.
He’s a big fan of milk.
In a 2006 review for a 128-ounce jug of milk on Amazon.com, “long time [milk] fan” Bezos awards the product five stars, writing, “I love milk so much that I’ve been drinking it since the day I was born.” Additionally, a 1999 Wired profile of Bezos shows the tech billionaire buying a quart of milk. More recently, he invested in a plant-based milk brand called NotMilk, which is made of cabbage juice, chicory root fiber, pineapple, and pea protein. Per several Amazon reviews, NotMilk tastes a lot like cow’s milk.
His biological father was a circus performer.
Bezos only knew his biological father when he was a toddler; he was raised by his mother and stepfather, even adopting his stepfather’s last name. Ted Jorgensen, his biological dad, went on to have a career as a “prominent unicyclist in Albuquerque” who performed in the circus, and later, owned a bike shop. Apparently Jorgenson had no idea who his son was until 2012, when Brad Stone tracked him down while researching his first Bezos book and told him that he was the Amazon founder’s dad.